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Holy Quran Section > English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (Table of Contents) > Chapter 2 (Al-Baqarah - The Cow) > Section 7 (Verses 60 to 61)


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Section/Ruku 7 [Verses 60 to 61]: Divine Favours on Israel:
Chapter 2: (Al-Baqarah - The Cow)
(Revealed at Madinah: 40 sections; 286 verses)

1. Translation:

60 And when Moses prayed for water for his people, We said: March on to the rock with thy staff.
a So there flowed from it twelve springs. Each tribe knew their drinking place.b Eat and drink of the provisions of Allah, and act not corruptly, making mischief in the land.

61 And when you said: O Moses, we cannot endure one food,a so pray thy Lord on our behalf to bring forth for us out of what the earth grows, of its herbs and its cucumbers and its garlicb and its lentils and its onions. He said: Would you exchange that which is better for that which is worse? Enter a city,c so you will have what you ask for. And abasement and humiliation were stamped upon them, and they incurred Allah’s wrath.d That was so because they disbelieved in the messages of Allah and would kill the prophets unjustly.e That was so because they disobeyed and exceeded the limits.

 2. Commentary:

60a. The words idrib bi‘asa ka-l-hajara may be translated in two ways, strike the rock with thy staff, or march on or go forth or hasten, to the rock with thy staff. Darb means striking, smiting, marching on, going from place to place, setting forth a parable, and carries a number of other significances. In fact, darb is used to indicate all kinds of actions except a few (T). When ard (land or earth) is its object, it carries the significance of going about or seeking a way. Thus daraba-l-arda or daraba fi-l-ardi both signify he journeyed in the land or went forth or hastened in the land (LL). The object of idrib here is al-hajar which means a rock or a mountain to which there is no access, as explained by Tha‘labi (LL). ‘Asa ordinarily means staff or rod, but its primary significance is a state of combination (T, LL), and the word is metaphorically used to speak of a community. Thus of the Khwarij, a Muslim sect, it is said, shaqqu‘asa-l-Muslimina (lit., they broke the staff of the Muslims) which means that they made a schism in the state of combination and union, or in the community of the Muslims (LA). Hence the words may mean strike the rock with thy staff, or march on to the mountain with thy staff or thy community.

The story that Moses carried a stone with him and that twelve springs flowed from it whenever, placing it in the wilderness, he struck it with his staff, has no foundation in the words of the Holy Quran or any saying of the Prophet. What the words of the Quran signify is either that Moses was commanded by God to smite a particular rock with his staff from which water flowed forth miraculously, or to march on to a mountain from which springs flowed. The Bible does not contain any contemporaneous record of the events, and what it contains does not render much help. In Exod. 17:1–6 we are told that Moses went with the elders to the rock of Horeb, and on his smiting the rock with his rod water flowed out, but there is no mention of twelve springs there. But as Marah (Exod. 15:23) is now known by the name of ‘uyun Musa, i.e., the springs of Moses (Bib. Dict., Cambridge Press, Art. "Wilderness"), it is very doubtful whether the incident referred to in Exod. 17:1–6 is correctly recorded, the more so as there is hopeless confusion about the other incidents related to have occurred at Rephidim, the scene of the smiting of the rock. [Back to verse 60]

60b. The number of springs is in accordance with the number of the Israelite tribes. It is very probable that the reference in this verse is to the twelve wells at Elim (Exod. 15:27), to which place the Israelites had gone from Marah. Moreover, the twelve tribes could settle on twelve springs apart from each other only if the springs were situated at a distance from each other and did not flow from one source. Compare also the next verse, according to which the demand for a variety of foods is granted by pointing out the natural course of settling in a town and tilling the ground. [Back to verse 60]

61a. "We remember the fish which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic. But now our soul is dried away, there is nothing at all besides this manna before our eyes .... Then Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent" (Num. 11:5–10). [Back to verse 61]

61b. The Israelites were required to live a hard life which would make them fit for conquering the Holy Land; this was better for them. But they wanted to live a life of ease and to have all kinds of food which they could get only by settling in towns and tilling the land. [Back to verse 61]

61c. Sale’s translation, "Get ye down into Egypt," is decidedly wrong. The word misr is used here as a common noun, and means a city. Hazeroth (Num. 11:35) seems to have been the place referred to here, "a station in the desert journey, the second after leaving Senai, probably to be identified with the modern ‘Ain al-Huderah, about forty miles N.E. of Jabal Musa" (Bib. Dict., Cam.). [Back to verse 61]

61d. The verse speaks of the ultimate condition to which the Israelites were reduced when they persisted in setting at naught the Divine commandments and indulged in immoral and depraved practices. A comparison with 3:112 will show the truth of this remark, for that verse, which is almost identical with the one under discussion, clearly refers to the later history of Israel. The truth of this prophecy regarding the fate of the Jewish nation is amply borne out by Jewish history. The Jews are the wealthiest of nations but their lot is miserable in almost every country of the world, notwithstanding their great influence in politics it remains so to this day. Moses had promised the same fate for them: "The Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from one end of the earth even unto the other ... And among those nations thou shalt find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest; but the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind" (Deut. 28:64, 65). [Back to verse 61]

61e. Jesus also holds the Jews guilty for "all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias" (Matt. 23:35), and condemns them for their hypocritical assertion that "if we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets" (Matt. 23:30). There is an allusion here to the Jewish plans against the life of the Prophet also. The word qatl signifies sometimes an attempt to kill or the doing of things which may lead to murder whether murder actually takes place or not (RM). Whether any prophets were actually killed or not is a different question, but they undoubtedly tried to kill prophets, and made several attempts to kill the Holy Prophet Muhammad too. [Back to verse 61]

 

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Holy Quran Section > English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (Table of Contents) > Chapter 2 (Al-Baqarah - The Cow) > Section 7 (Verses 60 to 61)


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